Petra’s 10!

(Her birthday was over 2 months ago. I’m really slacking).

Petra seems to have grown up a lot, just in the last few months. She’s gotten much more mellow, much more self-aware, much more able to name and control her feelings, much more able to understand and acknowledge other people’s feelings. All of that is making life much more pleasant around here.

Petra sitting in the grass, looking at the camera, with red, orange, and yellow silks on the ground behind her.

She’s hitting milestones that nobody talks about, but which are significant in growing up. A few days ago, our family finished reading The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman. The end is kind of cliff-hanger-y. Petra said, “Let’s get the next book right away!” I told her that it’s not out yet. Pullman is in his late 70s, he had COVID last spring, he’s still working on it. The last proposed publication date I heard was September 2023. Petra started weeping. I felt bad for her, because nobody likes to see their kid sad, but I also felt like this is a significant event in the life of a reader. Don’t most of us remember the first time we were so invested in a book, and then were shocked to learn that we couldn’t get the continuation of the story? Interestingly, for me, it was also a Philip Pullman book. A friend of a friend of my parents who worked in publishing passed me an advance copy ofThe Golden Compass. I didn’t know that it was the start of a trilogy. I read it all in one sitting and when I reached the end and realized I would have to wait literally years for the next book, I howled and terrified my mother, who had been sleeping (it was probably 2 am…on a school night).

Petra's legs and feet. She is wearing brown leather sneakers.
Another sign of growing up—this year’s sneakers don’t look like cartoons.

Thanks to our week-long stay at a hotel during the kitchen disaster, Petra finally got to be a decent swimmer. She’s still not super great—I definitely wouldn’t trust her for any kind of distance—but she has made tremendous progress. She and Silas did a swim clinic in the spring, and then sort of did swim team over the summer (it turned out they found the whole organized sports aspect to be very…not their vibe). She loves to go swimming, and getting her into water can change her whole mood. Over the summer, when we visited my aunt Marta, she and Silas got to help train a water rescue dog who happened to be practicing at the little lake near her house. The kids had to pretend to be drowning and then hang onto the dog while it swam to shore.

She’s developed other physical skills this year too, including finally learning to ice skate (every other time, she tried for about ten seconds and then threw a fit. Last year, she stuck with it enough to have a good time!).

Photo of Emmy and Petra ice skating, taken from behind. They are holding hands.
Skating with Emmy

Petra continues to love all animals. Whenever we go visit somebody, the first question is, “Do they have pets?” She is good at reading their moods, too, and knows when to give them some space. When we were in Arizona, the Air B&B we stayed in had lots of pets, including a tortoise! On our New York trip, Petra was thrilled to go to a cat cafe for the first time. The place was full of kitties.

We hadn’t fostered kittens for a while, because during the pandemic, we doubled our number of resident kitties, and also…everything just felt difficult. But Petra really wanted to get back into it. We told her that if she kept her room (where foster kitties would need to be) very clean for three months, we’d consider it. She rose to the challenge (not a surprise), and we let Cat’s Cradle know that we were back in business. We had a pair of sweet little kittens, and although we enjoyed them, both Porco and Hairy were Not Into It. Hairy, particularly, had a serious flare up of a stress-related eye problem he has.

After those kittens went to their “fur-ever” home, Petra decided we shouldn’t foster anymore for a while. It was way too hard on Hairy and Porco. I’m proud of her for making such a kind and sensitive decision about this, because I know she would love to have a constant stream of foster kittens.

Two laughing adults hold cats, while Petra pets one of them.
Kittens with their new family!

Petra continues to be very into science and nature studies. She got a cool book from the library called Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science, which she liked so much that we had to buy a copy. It’s a step up from the elementary kitchen science books she’s used before. This one required us to order chemicals of one kind and another to do things like homemade boba, edible “water bottles,” and peppermint meringues. She’s starting to get into more advanced concepts, and is always eager for more.

She and Silas are both LOVING their new forest school program. They are learning a ton, and their instructors really seem to get them. Petra has gained so much knowledge about the natural world, how to read weather and animal signs, what things to eat or NOT eat, etc. She’s happiest when she’s exploring the world.

One of the highlights of Petra’s year was when we went on a ramble with Anna Maria and Steven Johnson to explore some land they bought. Anna Maria is a native plants expert and Steven is a wildlife photographer. They were able to reveal aspects of the ecosystem that my eyes skimmed past.

Steven looks up a bird call on an app while Petra and Silas try to spot the otter in the river

She’s continued her pottery lessons with Ros O’Brien, and I’ve been impressed with the ambition and scope of her work there. She adores Ros and looks forward to their time in the studio together. Petra always has some new thing to tell me about the many different ways to create with clay.

Ikebana vase with greenery arrangement

It’s hard to believe she’s 10, and also not hard at all. I’m so excited to see where she ends up going as she grows. I can’t help but feel like it’s Petra’s world and we’re all just living in it.

Birthday interview

Hey Petra.


How old are you?


Ten! I heard that your birthday party theme was “Double Digits Toil and Trouble.”

Seriously mom? It was Macbeth but that wasn’t a great pun, sorry.

You’re my harshest critic here. How does it feel to be 10?

Not that different.

What did you do for your birthday?

Went to the Relief Sale which wasn’t that great, it had terrible weather. And then there was a Macbeth themed birthday party, which was AMAZING.

What was your favorite part of it?

No idea.

Can you tell me three great things from the party?

Well, there was the Macbeth knock-off of “Life and Death in the Forest,” the cake was really delicious, and also we got to see all of our friends. ALSO, we got Nina to do wound makeup and make everyone look like they were terrible wounded!

Can you tell me something exciting or interesting that our family has done this past year?

We went to the water park, which was really fun. We went to Arizona and stayed in a tiny house. it was so tiny it even had this fancy looking but really tiny refrigerator, and like a loft with stairs made up of the tops of other bits of furniture, which was so fun, because normally at home we aren’t allowed to climb on top of bookshelves and couches and things. And that was really fun. Also, they had a lot of chickens and two dogs and a tortoise and two miniature horses at that place. We went to New York and saw Hadestown, which was really good!

What is something that you have learned this year?

That Porco and Hairy don’t handle foster kittens well anymore.

You’ve taken pottery lessons for about a year now. What are some things you’ve made?

A couple of plates, a ton of berry bowls. One of them looks like a really awesome dragon, except I only got one side of its face to not look terrible, so I decided that a rainwing got the other half of its face.

Is there anything you’re scared of?


There’s nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s good. What do you like to do with Dad?

Literally bounce off the walls in one of his offices in a rolling spinny chair.

What do you like to do with me?

Swim, whenever we go swimming…randomly paint rocks, occasionally. Also going to the library. Although going to the library with you, there is one small problem.

What’s the problem?

Carrying all the books out!


You get a lot of books!

What do you and Silas like to do together?

We try to play one of our games like “King of the Shadows,” but we end up having long conversations Silas drags us into about Persona 5.

Can you tell me who some of your friends are right now?

Emmy, and Lillian. Elisabeth, James, basically all that category of Fairfields (the ones who we have met)…

What do you like to do with your friends?

Kutelopes, mainly. Also, gallivanting off into the woods for hours on end.

What do you like to do by yourself?

Listen to audiobooks and do puzzles. Also read books.

Do you have a favorite book?

I have a couple favorite book series. There’s the Wings of Fire series, all of the many Warriors books, the Chi’s Sweet Home books, which are really good and about a cat…Breaking Cat News…

Do you have any ideas about what you might want to be when you grow up?

Crazy cat lady? Maybe a job that involves lots of cats!


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